Over the past few months several Beta/Alpha opportunities have landed on our doorstep allowing me to get a few people into various tests. As of right now we have 3 current Pioneer Teams working in 3 different games. While these opportunities give these players a chance to see the game early in it's development, it also can give the wrong image of a game and ruin the chance of a player ever playing the game. Before you decide you would like to join a Gaiscioch Pioneer team there are a few things I would like all of you to consider and make sure your attitudes are in line with our goals. Beta Testing under the Gaiscioch name is NOT to be taken lightly. It is a commitment to the game developers to be there when they need you, report feedback back to them in a constructive manner, and also is our bridge between Gaiscioch and Developer in infancy form. If we do well and make a name for ourselves in their beta's we then have future opportunities. If our people show up for a week then give up, it gives us a real bad name.
Things to Consider While Testing
#1 You are testing in a Development Environment
Most of the games you have tested in "Open Beta" or "Head Start" are largely completed games undergoing polishing and stress testing. The programs that Gaiscioch will get you involved in are what make those games seem so functional and fun to play. Before ANY public test, Closed Beta, Alpha, and Focus Groups helped shape the game. There are many types of tests that you may become involved in.
Focus Groups (2-4 Years Pre-Launch) - Designed to pitch idea's and get feedback from key community members. Usually you watch video's and fill in surveys about what you saw in the video. Occasionally you will get a short hands on. In this stage your choices and responses will quite frankly send this game in a certain direction during development. If you don't respond or take this lightly you could send this game in the wrong direction wasting development time.
Alpha Testing (1-3 Years Pre-Launch) - This is the first hands-on test that you can get into. Typically these are limited playtimes, are specific systems tests, and are very very rough. Content is not in game yet, art models are placeholders, and various systems are turned off or not plugged in entirely. If a "Play-Before-You-Buy" or PBYB as I like to call them gets their hands on this version they will try it out for about 2 days and quit. They will then take the stance this game sucks I'll never play it and be lost forever. This stage of development is where you as gamers have the most power to help build an awesome game. You need to see the developers vision, combined with your ideas, to help pitch changes and improvements to make this game awesome. If you don't like something you need to share it. If you like something you need to share it. Feedback is critical in this stage. One and Done players not only hurt development but they hurt our reputation. If we find Gaiscioch members doing the PBYB they will be added to the no-fly list and not be allowed in any test we assist with in the future.
Alpha Testers need to be willing to play in a rough version of the game and keep coming back. In turn, they will have the closest contact with developers, see the game from infancy to live, and have a hand in making the game the best possible game on the market. It's success or failure will be at your fingertips and how the game does is a direct reflection of the testing team's ability to identify trouble spots before it goes into beta.
Closed Beta (3 Months - 2 Years Pre-Launch) - This is typically an expanded audience test. Sometimes it's covering many of the same things we saw in Alpha. Again the game is nowhere near completion or in a state where the PBYB will get a justified opinion of the game. Through closed beta a lot of the pieces will start turning on. You will see changes every time you log in. Entire systems may become entirely different. As more players hit the systems, problems are identified, reported, and fixed. This is the phase of the game where the most change happens. You will see art get put into place, engines getting smoothed out, game systems get overhauled, and sometimes even the direction of the game change entirely. In past tests I've seen the entire name of the game change along with it's focus. I've seen games that we're built for PvP get shifted into a PvE focused title. I've seen games that looked like freeware or shareware that I wouldn't spend a dime on get worked over and polished and go on to win awards for innovation. Closed beta is like a child from 3-5 years old. Your feedback will make or break the game. This is not something to be taken lightly and you should be committed to seeing the game through even if you don't like where it's currently at.
Open Beta (1-3 Months Pre-Launch) - This should be called Marketing/Press Demo. At this point the Closed Beta, Alpha, and Focus Groups have shaped the game to where it's going to be. Open Beta's are usually prelaunch stress tests and final polish. Very little will change in this time and the game is considered "Live Ready". The entire purpose of an open beta is to stress test and to give players a chance to try before they buy raising pre-orders and getting the first round of media blitz out the gate. This is where they mobilize their twitter army, their bloggers, and their news pushes. If you are a PBYB player this is what test you need to play. The game is essentially ready to go pending final tweeks and polish.
Testing As A Gaiscioch
The Gaiscioch over it's history has taken part in all of these stages of development. Sometimes for games that we end up turning into a chapter, other times for games that aren't even remotely close to being something we as a community will break into. If you get the opportunity to be a Gaiscioch tester we expect the following of you. If you can not live up to these requirements then I ask you do not ask to test and do not partake in testing.
- NEVER speak of your involvement to anyone. Not even your fish.
- Show up to at least 75% of the Scheduled Tests
- Fill in the surveys, even if their long and annoying.
- Post on the tester forums
- Participate in discussions
- Fulfill your commitment as a tester
- Act as a Gaiscioch Should and be a proper representative of our family.
Remember when you are testing a title, you are a representative of the family. If you don't fulfill your obligations you will be giving a bad name to our family. When you sign up, you commit to playing that game whether you like it or not for the duration of the test. Sure life gets complicated at times and you can't make the tests. But let them know you'll be out. Don't just not show up. Flakes belong on Biscuits, not on testing teams!
Before You Sign Up Please Consider:
- The Game Will Not Be Done - It will be buggy, crappy, unplayable, and if it was live it would be bargin bin material. Expect that. It's your job to make it platinum. Your vision and the developers vision will bloom into an awesome title.
- Beta Testing Can Lead To Burn Out - One of the biggest risks we face as testers is that we burn out on the game before it even makes it live. This can be a good thing if we recognize it and identify what it is that makes us not want to play. We then need to report it to developers in time so they can fix it. If we lack desire to play during testing, players will certainly feel the same at launch. It is critical that we let them know what it is that turns us off of the game.
- Bound By Contract - When you sign up for an Test you will sign an NDA and be bound by contract not to speak of your involvement or anything you have seen. Take this seriously. Some companies can and will sue or press charges by violating this. The reason this is so strict is so that they have a chance to innovate before the competition gets wind of their systems. A game like WOW has made billions by cloning every neat innovative feature new titles have. They have to keep things secret as long as they can so the competition can't steal the idea before the game comes to market. It also hurts the game when people share ideas and perspectives from the game in it's infancy. Most players don't understand development and think games just magically appear when a leprechaun farts. They don't see the YEARS of development and testing that go into them. A lot can change in even 3 months.
- If you test as Gaiscioch You Are Bound By Honor - If we find you are leaking information, we will remove you from the family and report you to the developer. We take this seriously as any breach or leak comes back on the people who introduced the player to the testing program. We will not tolerate loose lipped people or people who knowingly leak information. It goes against everything we stand for. If you slip, we will correct you and try to clean up the mess afterwards. If you knowingly leak information you will be reported.
- Closed Testing is NOT for Play-Before-You-Buy - If you want to try before you buy wait for open beta. Don't waste a seat at the development table and make judgements on a game that isn't even assembled yet. It hurts the development process and wastes all of our time. If you are found to be doing this you will be added to the no-fly list and be prohibited from any test we are involved in. This no-fly list is provided to developers at the start of every test as a list of people not to allow into closed testing. You really don't want to be on this list.
If you would like to be a member of the Gaiscioch Pioneers Testing team please click "Update Profile" on your command center when your logged in. All Lorgair or higher members will have access to the Testing Profile area and you can configure it as you like. Check back often for updates on various titles and opportunities.